Lightning" struck Chicago, but not a whole lot of other new vehicles make it here for the 90th edition of the Chicago Auto Show - an event that, in terms of public attendance, remains the largest auto show in North America.
Specifically, the "Lightning" comes fromMotor Co. in the form of its Special Vehicle Team (SVT)-enhanced F-150 - a nameplate hauled out of storage from SVT's first shot at offering a speed-enhanced pickup. The original Lightning, however, was based on the previous-generation F-Series and was a notorious flop.
But the new F-Series, launched in late '96 as a 1997 model, is an ovearwhelming success with customers and is a much better platform from which SVT can again test the waters of performance-truck demand.
SVT has worked up a supercharged version of the F-Series' 5.4L Triton V-8 to power the Lightning; it should be good for at least 325 hp.also unveils a new, NASCAR-inspired limited-edition F-150.
But the most attention at the Ford exhibit goes to the Libre, a design exercise concept of an Escort-sized 4-door sports sedan. Escort undergoes a major refreshening in the fall - could the Libre be an SVT version of that car?
Ford's Lincoln-Mercury Div. focuses attention on the new Cougar, first seen last month at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, but also unwraps a Collector Edition Lincoln Mark VIII, a model meant not so much to celebrate the many years of the Mark lineup as to pay homage to the last year of the VIII.
Motor Corp. weighs in with the first-ever look at the T150 pickup, slated to be assembled at the automaker's new plant in Princeton, IN, and set for sale in the 1999 calendar year (spring at the earliest).
The T150, whichsays still needs a name and might not continue with the moniker - taking an obvious dig at rival pickup-maker Ford - is larger than that current T100 full-size pickup in Toyota stores. The T150 will be powered by a drastically needed V-8 engine and will offer four doors, just as do the Corp. Dodge Ram and Ford F-Series and Corp. C/K series soon will. Joining the T150 are the 1998 Land Cruiser/Lexus LX470, sporting their new 4.7L V-8s.
Continuing with trucks, GM introduces the Z-71 Tahoe and Trail Blazer; the Z-71 Tahoe comes to market as the SUV companion to the Z-71 full-size Chevy truck, powered by the lame-duck 5.7L OHV V-8, and special shocks and sportier suspension settings. The Trail Blazer is a specially modified version of the Blazer SUV directed at off-roaders, too. Both models will go on sale for the '99 model year.
Motor Corp. de-sheeted its all-new 1999 Galant sedan to tilt at the Motor Co. Ltd. Accord and Toyota Camry, as well as a targa-roofed version of the husky SST sports car first shown at NAIAS. The SST targa, Mitsu says, is to gauge public reaction as to whether consumers prefer a soft top, a sunroof, or a targa top for the upcoming redesign of the Eclipse.
Finally,Motor Co. Ltd. displays its redesigned Quest minivan (sliding doors on both sides being its primary new feature) in a bit of one-upmanship over joint-venture partner Ford and its Mercury Villager twin. The Mercury gang reportedly doesn't have a Villager prototype ready for the Chicago show, and Ford supposedly isn't ready to kill sales of existing Villagers, of which inventories are running high.